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Rep. Harris: Releasing Trump’s Ukraine call transcript ‘right thing to do’
To Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., what's most troubling about the latest allegations against President Trump is that he allegedly pressured a foreign government to dig up dirt on a political opponent, and that he potentially sought to use taxpayer dollars to create that pressure. But Spanberger also told William Brangham on Tuesday that impeachment is not a “foregone conclusion.”
As the push for impeachment grows, we want to hear from Capitol Hill.
We start with one of the seven freshman Democrats who wrote that piece in The Washington Post.
Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger is a Democrat from Virginia, and she sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. We spoke earlier this evening.
Congresswoman Spanberger, thank you very much for being here.
You obviously heard the speaker's announcement that she is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. In the piece that you wrote in The Washington Post last night, you wrote — quote — "These allegations" — this is about the president's behavior with regards to Ukraine — "are stunning, both in the national security threat they pose and the potential corruption they represent."
You spent some time in the CIA. Can you give me a sense about, what it is that is most troubling about his behavior?
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va.:
What's most troubling about these allegations is the fact that we see a president who allegedly pressured a foreign government to provide information, to dig up dirt on a political opponent, and that he potentially sought to use security assistance funds, taxpayer dollars, to leverage and to create that pressure.
From a national security perspective, this is tremendously worrisome on multiple fronts. First and foremost, the fact that we would have security assistance funding at play, leveraged, potentially not going where it needs to go, after it's been appropriated by Congress, is troubling element number one.
The fact that we would have a president who would potentially put himself in a position of pressuring a foreign government, that's not how our diplomatic relationships are supposed to go.
And then, of course, there's the primary piece, that we shouldn't have a president of the United States who is using his power to collect information for his own personal gain.
And I think there are so many troubling threads here with these allegations that we really do need a full investigation to understand if they are true or if they are not.
And I think the ramifications from a national security perspective go very far beyond where we are right now. What does this say potentially, even just the allegations, to other nations? Does this mean that we have a president that might treat another country favorably if they were to proactively provide information about one of his political rivals?
There are so many elements that are deeply troubling. But the core facts of it, the fact that we have a president who would leverage his political position for his own personal gain and put U.S. assistance dollars on the table in such a manner, those allegations are striking.
You mentioned in your piece last night and just now that — if these allegations are true.
We still don't have all the facts. The president himself is pointing out that we still haven't seen a transcript of the phone call. We haven't seen the whistle-blower's report.
Do you think it's too early to be talking about an impeachment inquiry, given that we don't know all the facts yet, despite the president's admissions?
Well, I think the important piece about an impeachment inquiry or the congressional power of inherent contempt, subpoenas or any other tools that we have, these are tools that allow Congress to get to the bottom of an issue.
These are tools that allow us to have a privileged process when investigating these allegations. I don't think that it should be a foregone conclusion that we are definitely destined towards impeachment.
I think — I wanted to be very clear, as did my colleagues, that these allegations, if true, are impeachable offenses. But the goal at this point in time is to make clear the gravity of these allegations to the American people, to our colleagues in Congress, and to advocate that we use every tool available to Congress to get to the bottom of it and to prove these allegations true or false.
If the president releases tomorrow, as he has promised, the transcript of that phone call, will that be enough to settle these questions?
Oh, I don't think so.
I think there are so many pieces of evidence that we need to have and so many questions that we need to have answered.
Why would the president have withheld hundreds of millions of dollars of security assistance to Ukraine? Were there other phone calls that occurred? What are the details that the whistle-blower who came forward that currently the DNI is not allowing that information to go to Congress, as required by law?
There are many more unanswered questions than the actual substance of one particular phone call. And, as a former CIA case officer, as a former law enforcement officer, for me, it is all about facts and evidence.
And so I hope that my colleagues and certainly members of the press and the American people won't think that there is just one piece of evidence that we need to prove one way or the other. My hope is that we will pursue every element of information we possibly can have, so that, if we are getting to the point where we say these allegations are true or false, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that that is, in fact, the case.
If the House were to gather all this evidence and see that it was important enough to vote to impeach the president, by all measures, the Senate is not going to convict the president.
Do you still think it would be worth it to go through this exercise?
Well, I am of the belief that people who are elected to office are going to put their oath to uphold the Constitution above and beyond their political affiliation.
I believe, I have faith that any elected member of the Congress or the Senate will eventually put country before party when the choice is there the make.
If, throughout the course of an investigation, it becomes clear enough that there would be a positive vote on articles of impeachment within the House of Representatives, my expectation is that, in order to get that outcome, based on facts and evidence, it would be clear within the Senate what it is that they would be weighing in on.
All right, Representative Abigail Spanberger, thank you very much.
Thank you very much, William. I appreciate it.
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